The Platform Development team in SAS R&D has a vision for how SAS applications will be built and deployed in the future. It’s a vision that accounts for recent trends in cloud computing, high performance computing, open APIs and smart phone app stores. It’s also a vision that promises to simplify and streamline the way many SAS solutions are developed, deployed and customized.
To help understand the vision, it’s useful to imagine a few possible scenarios:
- You are a leading property insurer in your region of the world. You have multiple subsidiaries in dozens of countries that operate in large part as independent companies. One of those country offices has developed a SAS application that has reduced customer churn rates by 30 percent. You want to deploy the same application to every subsidiary as soon as possible so that each unit can analyze its own client data to achieve similar results.
- You are a large global manufacturer. The dozens of SAS programmers throughout your worldwide workforce have developed more than 500 SAS applications that are currently in use at your company. You want to provide an environment where those developers can share their applications with other divisions, re-use pieces of existing applications to build new solutions, and combine multiple applications into larger SAS mash-ups.
- You are an independent SAS consultant with a growing client list in the field of fraud detection for government programs. You’ve created an add-on reporting component for the SAS Fraud Solution that several counties in your area want to deploy to better understand welfare fraud rings in their area. You want to make it easy for each county to find and download the add-on and for other potential clients to find it within a database or “online store” that features similar SAS apps.
What do these scenarios have in common? They all describe a situation where a SAS developer or development team wants to build, customize and deliver SAS applications to a diverse user base at minimal cost. As users become accustomed to getting quick access to applications in the cloud and developers see the benefits of open API models that make it easy to combine and customize applications for multiple purposes, a Platform as a Service (PaaS) model becomes ideal for accomplishing these tasks.
What is the platform and what is the service? From a SAS perspective, the platform itself is an integrated development environment that includes scalable data management, analytics, lifecycle management and public APIs for infrastructure services – among other features. The service is the model used for deploying the platform, which – depending on your needs – could be hosted on site, off site or in a hybrid model.
These options make the environment ideal not just for packaged SAS Solutions but also for independent SAS consultants and classic SAS developers who work in larger organizations.
Marty Tomasi, a manager for the platform development team in SAS R&D says the PaaS model offers opportunities to both large and small SAS customers. “Large IT shops and independent developers are looking at the cloud not only as a way to do more with less – but as an enabler for elastic capabilities or as a way to further enable what they already provide as a differentiator.”
Paradoxically, PaaS gives large organizations a way to share and redeploy SAS applications as nimbly as a small shop working with less data. And it gives smaller firms and consultants access to the hardware and architecture resources that were traditionally available only to large enterprises.
“Anyone who needs a developer ecosystem to customize or extend SAS solutions in some way will benefit from platform as a service,” says Marty. Ultimately, he adds: “It’s all about the apps. We want to make sure people can get purpose-built SAS applications as quickly as possible.”
After all, not every SAS application comes directly packaged from SAS headquarters. “We want to make it easy for all different types of developers to build applications themselves, and we want to provide developers with an environment that will keep their skills relevant and useful to the business,” explains Marty.
Going back to our three scenarios, it’s easy to see how these different types of developers will all benefit from an environment that makes it easy for them to build, customize and deploy SAS applications in a way that is flexible enough to meet their needs as developers and secure enough to deploy SAS analytics to various information consumer as well.
Will anyone be able to download a simple SAS app from iTunes as a result of SAS PaaS efforts? Not likely. But will it be easier to develop SAS applications and share them more broadly across a select group of users? Absolutely.